Skip to Content

Prostate cancer screening recommendations altered for some older men

April 27, 2017 | Dagny Stuart

A federal task force has changed its recommendation about prostate cancer screening for some older men. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends that men between the ages of 55 to 69 consult with their physicians about getting routine screening blood tests to detect prostate cancer.

In 2012 the task force recommended against routine screening with prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests for men of any age because the risk of complications from treatment appeared to outweigh the benefits of routine screening.

However, following that recommendation, a 2015 study led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) investigators found new diagnoses of prostate cancer in the U.S. declined 28 percent in the year following the draft recommendation against routine PSA screening.

The VUMC investigators suggested that withholding screening may result in failure to detect higher-risk cancers during the window of time when the cancer is most likely to be cured. Timely treatment of intermediate and high-risk localized disease is associated with superior overall survival, disease-specific survival and decreased spread of the disease to other locations in the body.

The VUMC research and other studies helped contribute to this week’s revised USPSTF guidelines.

“This is a major about-face for the USPSTF that brings them into agreement with most other major professional societies. Patients need to discuss screening with their doctors and decide if this is the right thing for them,” said David Penson, M.D., MPH, Paul V. Hamilton, M.D., and Virginia E. Howd Professor of Urologic Oncology and chair of the department.

Prostate cancer is the second most-common cancer in men in the United States, after skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men and it occurs more often in African-American men than in white men. Those who are diagnosed with the disease have a variety of options for treatment.

At VUMC, patients are cared for by a team of medical professionals including urologists; medical oncologists (cancer doctors who work with medications including chemotherapy); radiology oncologists (cancer doctors who work with radiation); surgeons (who perform operations); anesthesiologists (who manage pain); physicists (who help plan the complex prescription for radiation therapy); therapists; and pathologists (who analyze body tissue in the lab).

VUMC is one of the highest volume hospitals in the country for urologic surgical procedures, which includes prostate cancer treatment.